COSMIC COINCIDENCE: What are the odds? On Tuesday, Feb. 24th, Saturn and Comet Lulin will converge in the constellation Leo only 2 degrees apart. At the same time, Comet Lulin will be making its closest approach to Earth–the comet at its best!– while four of Saturn’s moons transit the disk of the ringed planet in view of backyard telescopes. Oh, and the Moon will be New, providing dark skies for anyone who wishes to see the show.
The best time to look is around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning (your local time) when the planet-comet combo ascend high in the southern sky. To the unaided eye, Comet Lulin looks like a faint patch of gas floating next to golden Saturn. Point your backyard telescope at that patch and you will see a lovely green comet with a double tail.
Visit http://spaceweather.com for full coverage including photos, sky maps, and a live webcast.
Geographic Notes: Comet Lulin is visible from all parts of the globe–all longitudes and both hemispheres. Directions are reversed in the southern hemisphere; there the comet is located in the northern sky around 1 am. Saturn is globally visible, too, but the special quadruple transit of Saturn’s moons starting around 3 a.m. PST on Feb. 24th is visible only to observers around the Pacific Rim. Details may be found here: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/19feb_quadrupletransit.htm
Just an FYI and a “heads up.” I’m interested in seeing the phenomenon, but I’ll be sleeping…